Friday, October 14, 2011

Fall Locavore Dinner

My gentleman friend's father hunts deer, so his freezer is stocked with various forms of venison (like pepperoni and bologna!?) and sometimes we get to enjoy venison steak. It's a lean meat that reminds me of bison. This back strap cut was particularly tender and added to what felt like an indulgent yet wholesome fall locavore dinner.

I thought a bunch of sage I had picked from my mother's garden would be a nice flavor accompaniment to mashed sweet potatoes, and it certainly was. I wasn't sure how to best incorporate it, so I decided to chop and sautee the sage and then add to the mash. He said the pieces of sage were off-putting in the otherwise creamy mashed potatoes; I didn't mind. Next time, I wouldn't bother cooking the sage and would more finely dice it. On the side was also kale, simply sauteed with olive oil, salt and pepper, because sometimes that's all it needs.

For dessert, we made apple crisp using fruit from the annual upstate apple picking adventure and topped it with vanilla maple ice cream. The boy loves ice cream so much he eats it every day. I love making ice cream and taught him how. Now he's got himself an ice cream machine and can achieve creamy perfection (especially thanks to Milk Thistle Farm), that my handchurn technique can't quite reach.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Biking to Fort Tilden

I took advantage of the surprise summer weather this weekend to bike to the Fort Tilden beach. I'd been there before, but last time we drove there and the flies chased us away. This time it was perfectly lovely. Hour + 15-30 minute bike rides flanking lazy lying on the beach. The water was too cold for me, but my companions enjoyed floating in unusually calm water.

After researching and trying both routes, we figured out that you can either take Ocean Parkway or Bedford Ave. Ocean Parkway has a pleasant separated bike lane, which is better for conversational biking, but adds two miles to the ride. If you take Ocean Parkway, turn left onto Neptune Ave before you reach the boardwalk, which turns into Emmons Ave. If you take Bedford Ave, you take a left right onto Emmons Ave. Either way, when you reach the intersection of Brigham and Emmons, you will see a path set off to the right of the ramp onto the Belt Parkway (pictured below).

You want to take this bike path (not the ramp onto the highway), which follows the wetlands along the shore and takes you right to Flatbush Ave and over the bridge to the Rockaways. We passed an area where Hurricane Irene had washed away the path, despite the bags of sand buffering the coast - no matter, just walk your bike through the sand at this spot and enjoy the view.

Once you're over the bridge, make an awkward left just before all the field and parking lot business, and then turn right just before the beach and follow the path through the woods until you reach at least post 22 (which also has a bike rack) in order to hit the lawless Fort Tilden beach, rather than Jacob Riis. It's not the most straightforward journey, which is why I thought it would be helpful to put these directions on the internet.

map via brooklyn by bike

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Mary Finished the Trail!

While in Portland, I also got to catch up with my friend Mary. She recently completed the Continental Divide Trail after a five month solo hike. She survived a grizzly bear encounter along the way. And lots of knee deep or higher snow in the Colorado mountaintops. In recognition of having now completed all three of the US National Scenic Trails together with the Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trails, she received the coveted Triple Crown Award. I could never imagine doing any of that in a million years.

She's put up an amazing gallery of photos on her blog Married to the Trail, where she plans to continue blogging with her reflections and experiences from hiking. Check it out!

In search of better stuffed peppers

Every time I make stuffed peppers, the stuffing doesn't cook much.

For this version, I combined cooked orzo, cooked chickpeas, grated cheddar cheese and raw leeks, stuffed this inside peppers and baked it at 430 F for about half an hour. I figured the leeks would roast inside the peppers, but they didn't really.

Tell me what I am doing wrong. Should it stay in the oven longer? Should the stuffing all be pre-cooked? Do you have a great recipe for vegetarian stuffed peppers?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Back from Portland

I'm back from a weeklong trip to Portland, OR with friends who want to move there, and it's easy to see why they love it. The city lives up to its stereotypes. It's like Brooklyn - with hipsters and bikes and second hand clothing stores and quality locally sourced food and craft beer everywhere - but in a smaller, more manageable size and more beautiful and spacious setting. Instead of dense apartment buildings, it's cute house after cute house with small but green lots.

When I saw Portland's quiet, bike laned streets, I understood why it's good for biking - the city is laid out in a grid, appeared not-too hilly and has plentiful side streets that look much safer than NYC's busy streets. I could see myself easily getting around primarily by bike there. But while Portland's public transportation is much lauded and some of our friends there do get by without owning a car, I found that it's more of a car city than you'd think. The light rail doesn't even go to southeast Portland and the rail and buses stop running around 12:30 nightly. Somehow, you can always find street parking, so it's often easier to just drive to your destination, especially when you're with a big group of people who include tourists who don't have bikes.

This one speaks for itself.

Food not lawns!

There are movie theaters where you can enjoy pizza and beer while watching the movie, all for only slightly more than the price of just a movie ticket in NYC.

Food trucks! Unlike in NYC, where they are mobile and elusive and require twitter to track down locations, food trucks in Portland get permanent devoted areas in parking lots called "food truck pods" so you always know where you can find your favorite late night pizza or breakfast sandwich.

The most memorable meal of the trip was at Pok Pok, a Thai street food restaurant with a a James Beard Foundation award winning chef and amazing spicy fish sauce chicken wings.

We got to enjoy two hot springs - Bonneville Hot Springs in the Columbia River Gorge just across the border in Washington, which was more of a resort and was unfortunately treated with chlorine.
Columbia River Gorge

Much better was Bagby Hot Springs, where a 1.5 mile hike into the woods leads you to an old wooden structure where you can soak in carved out logs.

When people warn you not to go to the coast because it's rainy and windy, you should listen, because what they really mean is that there will be driving rain with gale force winds that rock your car and threaten to blow you over so you won't be able to hike or see any of the beautiful views.

Also, everyone we met was super nice and willing to make time to hang out and make introductions to other people. Very refreshing compared to New York. Here are some new friends having fun climbing the columns in Cathedral Park in North Portland.

I also heard a lot of complaints about the rain and unemployment problems, so just make sure you have a job lined up and don't mind wearing a raincoat if you plan on moving there...